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    Sobriquet 40.10

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008
    I seem to have hit something of a rut lately and, as is often the case with these sort of things, I have difficulty identifying a moment when what had been a steady pace began to slow into a wheezy stagger (this is one of those instances when I wish I could place footnotes in my text, so that I could make some snarky, if unfunny, quip about Weezie from The Jeffersons). Like so many other things, the development is gradual and one only recognizes that the change has taken place well into the process. On the other hand, I wonder if perhaps I have not really slowed down, that memory has colored past progress in an unrealistically rosy shade...

    Despite the hours spent procrastinating, however, I did make my way through the reading I'd set aside for myself today. I am enjoying In the Heart of the Country, as I believe I've already mentioned, though I find that reading the unhinged protagonist's stream-of-consciousness narrative is not always as easy or quick a task as I'd like it to be. Though I would like to say a few things about the book, I will hold off on discussing the novel at length until I have finished it.

    Other than the unpleasant sense that I am lagging a bit in my work, I have begun feeling some of the old anxious standbys creeping into my consciousness. For instance, as I progress down the rather narrow intellectual path a doctoral dissertation necessarily requires of the beleaguered scholar, I crave a broader knowledge of fields outside my own. I long to read history books, philosophical treatises, religious screeds, political exposes, and scientific studies. I want as thorough an education as Will Durant, as deep an understanding of things--of everything--as is humanly possible, and yet I haven't the photographic memory of a Harold Bloom (not to mention his astounding ability to read in excess of ninety pages an hour), I lack the focus and, above all, the time to devote to that sort of extended study. And, boy, it tasks me.

    That restlessness extends to this blog, too. There are times when I would like to write a short essay on some aspect of higher education that I feel particularly passionate about, but I do not feel as if I have the time to devote to that sort of effort. There is one thing, however, that I would like to say about something wholly unrelated to this blog: I am astonished by the overwhelming outpouring of support among my 18-35 year-old peers for Barak Obama's presidential candidacy. I should emphasize that I am not particularly concerned with the possibility that Mr. Obama will become the next president of the United States, as I am sure he will be about as effective a leader as any of the current candidates. What concerns me, however, is the blind acceptance with which so many young people seem to embrace Obama's message. Bearing a message of hope as consistently vague as it is enthusiastic, Obama seems to have channeled the spirit of Beatlemania as effectively as any politician. Now, messages of hope and progress have always drawn the enthusiasm of socially-concerned, altruistic idealists--as should be the case--but the unquestioning enthusiasm with which Obama's brand of political optimism has been accepted suggests that the widespread dissatisfaction many Americans feel towards the Bush-Cheney era has weakened the healthy skepticism with which we normally scrutinize political rhetoric to a point when unremarkable statements dressed in decidedly eloquent, powerful oratory are welcomed as both novel and genuinely profound. Again, I am not saying that Mr. Obama's upbeat message is anything but a positive thing, but I hesitate to dismiss his lack of political experience, his inconsistent legislative record, or his astonishing self-importance (three traits many candidates share) as irrelevant to an evaluation of his candidacy as so many people seem to do. Therein lies the problem: Mr. Obama is as glib, as charming, as eloquent as any politician ought to be but we've lost our skepticism as a nation. In our haste to usher out what many perceive as a shamefully bleak era in American history, we have suppressed our skeptical nature, the hallmark of critical thinking and that is the problem with Barak Obama's candidacy. He has channeled the zeitgeist of a dissatisfied nation into an infectiously electric frenzy and very few commentators seem comfortable questioning whether such a splenetic mass mentality is healthy. If Mr. Obama wins the Democratic nomination, I suspect we will see some of these issues raised in the media and I suspect they will be spun as part of a conservative agenda, but they are not meant to favor the John McCain ticket or even a Hillary Clinton-headed Democratic slate. What I fear is reactionary fervor, blind acceptance as the result of sheer disdain, and a moment in our history when we lose an opportunity to reflect upon the consequences of jumping on a jingoistic bandwagon in the wake of a horrible tragedy by simply jumping on another bandwagon after the first one crashes.

    For tomorrow: More reading.

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